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Des Moines Teacher Feature: Janet Winship
By West Music Conservatory
12/1/2017 6:06:00 PM  

Janet is a professional performer, accompanist, and piano instructor with more than 20 years of experience.  She teaches the piano in a variety of styles according to her students’ needs and interests. In addition to teaching lessons at West Music Piano Gallery, she also teaches piano at “A Noteworthy Affair Piano Studio,” which she owns and operates in Des Moines.

Janet grew up in Michigan where she attended Wayne State University as a theatre major. She later attended Oakland University for Music. Janet started giving piano lessons in Michigan fulltime in 1989 until she moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1993 where she has been exclusively teaching piano ever since. Janet is an active member of MTNA, IMTA, Des Moines Music Teachers Association, National Federation of Music Clubs, IFMC (serving as Festival Chairman), and the Des Moines Federated Teachers Club.  Recently, Janet was a piano judge at the Des Moines Public School’s Piano Festival.

Since living in Des Moines she has been invited to perform at 801 Grand and Chocolaterie Stam, as well as private parties, churches, weddings, and funerals. Janet’s hobbies and interests include being a part of the Beautification Committee of NOG (North of Grand) Neighborhood Association and gardening flowers and vegetables. She also enjoys baking bread and is frequently an exhibitor at the Iowa State Fair where she won multiple blue ribbons including being the “over all” winner in foods. Recently, Janet was a piano judge at the Des Moines Public School’s Piano Festival.

Janet teaches a variety of styles according to her students’ needs and interests. She also teaches all skill levels. To take a class with Janet or any of our music instructors, please call 800-373-2000 or visit Janet's webpage to register online for your first lesson!

Tags: piano, des moines, lessons
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines October 2017 Musician of the Month: Carter Smith
By West Music Company
10/1/2017 3:33:00 PM  
Carter Smith PianoCarter Smith has been a piano student of Emily Walter at West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery for 5 years. He is an 8th grader in the Urbandale Community School District. Some of Carter’s school activities include participation in band, jazz band, show choir, cross country, rock climbing, theatre, and drum lessons. His interests also include watching sports, hanging out with friends, and listening to his favorite band Queen. Carter loves playing music because it feels great to recognize songs that he’s already learned to play. One of his goals is to perform at more music festivals.

Carter’s advice to other musicians is to come to lessons with a good attitude and keep on working. One fun fact about Carter— he lived in Las Vegas for 8 years! Very cool! Emily selected Carter for Musician of the Month because “Despite Carter’s busy schedule, he always comes to piano lessons prepared and with a great attitude. He takes on challenging piano pieces and always tries is best!”

Keep up the hard work, Carter!

Tags: piano, student, des moines, urbandale
Categories: West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines July 2017 Musician of the Month: Channing Rooda
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
Channing RoodaChanning Rooda has been a piano student of Scott Smith for 18 months. She is a junior and homeschooled. Channing also plays the French horn, trumpet, and guitar. Channing loves playing music because “it never really goes the same way twice, so it’s always a challenge. It’s kind of like a puzzle; it’s very satisfying when you figure it out. Also, it’s a great stress reliever, and a skill that never really leaves you. Plus, it can really open doors for you.”

Channing participates in church music and the North Mahaska Jazz Band. They were state champions this year in class 1A. She also gives piano lessons to 12 students. Her advice to other musicians is to practice a lot, don’t get frustrated, and when you want to quit… DON’T.

When not practicing the piano, Channing participates in showing American Quarter Horses nationwide, and she has shown American Kennel Club dog agility, putting a title on her dog. During her free time, Channing reads and writes. English is one of her favorite subjects, taking after her mom who is an English teacher. She even named her horse Wilbur after the pig in “Charlotte’s Web”.

Channing loves classical music, especially Beethoven and Schubert, but she’s recently been listening to jazz musicians like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Scott Smith selected Channing for Musician of the Month because she picks up on new music quickly, and is dedicated to practicing and advancing as a musician. One surprising fact about Channing is that she is a second generation American. Her grandfather emigrated from Holland during WWII.

Congrats, Channing!!

Tags: piano, lessons, student, teacher, Scott Smith
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines Teacher Feature: Mark Willie
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
mark willie guitar lesson
Mark began playing guitar in 1997 and took private lessons for five years before being accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. While at Berklee he continued to take private lessons for another four years from instructors Chris Buono, Joe Stump, and Shawn Michaud.  He graduated Cum Laude with his Bachelor's Degree in Music Business with special emphasis on Management. While at Berklee he studied a variety of music areas including: Harmony, Ear-training/Solfege, Counterpoint, Traditional Harmony & Composition, Conducting, as well as a multitude of courses in Business and Music-Business. He also took elective courses specializing in the music of Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schonberg.

While at Berklee he played guitar in the "Dream Theater ensemble" (an ensemble focusing on the music of Dream Theater) and took both the "Shred lab I" and "Shred lab II" taught by Joe Stump.

After graduating from Berklee he moved to Huntington Beach, CA to complete his internship at Prosthetic Records (All That Remains, Lamb of God, Animals As Leaders).  Shortly after that he became tour manager for Cattle Decapitation (Metal Blade Records) for two summer tours. 

NEW: In 2010 he played guitar and toured for Serpents (Artery Management).  He left Serpents to join Systems and helped write the 2012 EP Terrasomnium along with Chaney Crabb of Entheos (Artery Recordings).

Mark's band Sequoyah just released their debut album, Perception, in November 2016 and is available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and Bandcamp and the music is available for streaming through Spotify and Pandora.

Mark has been teaching guitar and music theory for the past seven years and covers a variety of styles- (Blues, Jazz, Classical, Rock, and Metal) as well as a variety of techniques such as tapping, string-skipping, legato, sweep-picking, etc. and a wide variety of music theory topics ranging from beginner to advanced.

Learn more about taking lessons! Call West Music at 800-373-2000, or visit looking4lessons.com to schedule your first class online.

Tags: mark willie, des moines, urbandale, guitar, lesson, teacher, electric
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines Teacher Feature: Esther Lim
By West Music Company
7/1/2017 1:01:00 AM  
Esther Lim piano teacherEsther Lim is a graduate from Drake University with a Bachelor's degree of Music in Piano Performance. Though she began playing the piano at age 6 with a former instructor, her talent became recognized at 14 years of age, studying with Yamaha artist and Drake Professor of Piano, Dr. Nicholas Roth. 

Originally from Des Moines, she appeared as a collaborative pianist from the age of 10 with instrumentalists and vocalists from different institutions and schools throughout the capital city. She has performed as a soloist in Drake Meets HOROWITZ! in 2013, the Keys to Excellence Series, Drake Honors Recital, and master classes for internationally acclaimed artists for Asaf Zohar (Buchmann-Mehta School of Music and Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), Alan Chow (Eastman School of Music), Lori Sims (Western Michigan), and Daniel Shapiro (Cleveland Institute of Music), among others. As an active pianist in the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, Lim performed in the Esterházy Palace Empiresaal (Empire Hall) and the Haydn Konservatorium Konzertsaal (Haydn Conservatory Concert Hall). In 2016, Lim has also performed in Beijing, China at Minzu University and the following year, she has appeared as a performer for the American Liszt Society.

Following her one-year hiatus after graduation, she hopes to move forward and pursue graduate studies in Piano Performance. Esther accepts students age 5+ at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Learn more about taking lessons! Call West Music at 800-373-2000, or visit looking4lessons.com to schedule your first class online.

Tags: esther lim, des moines, urbandale, piano, lesson
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines Teacher Feature: Barbara Wenger
By West Music Company
6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
barbara wenger piano lessonsBarbara Wenger grew up on a dairy farm in Northeast Iowa. Music was a huge part of her upbringing. She played piano for church during high school. She also played the baritone in band and was in the girls’ chorus, mixed chorus, and show choir. After marrying in 1983, Barbara and her husband moved 12 times throughout the U.S. and Canada with her husband’s career in the U.S. Navy.

Barbara Wenger has been teaching piano since 1997, and has been a Licensed Kindermusik Educator, church organist, and children's choir director. She has also held positions as an administrative assistant, insurance biller, and worked in sales. While in Virginia, Barbara operated her own Kindermusik Studio and taught piano. She also substituted as a pianist and organist for local churches, as well as a local children’s choir director. During her stay in Canada, Barbara established her own classes in a retirement home and daycare settings. Moving to Tennessee, Barbara established a piano program for students looking for private lessons. She taught students in grades kindergarten through middle school.

Barbara is comfortable working with various aged students and encourages them to perform in the yearly recitals. Barbara has a passion for introducing music into the lives of children, helping them develop an appreciation for the arts. She also enjoys reading, walking, watching her sons play sports (lacrosse, baseball, and football), volunteering at school, and most recently spending time with her five grandchildren. 

Taking lessons with Barbara or any of our music instructors. Call West Music at 800-373-2000, or learn more at Looking4Lesson.com and schedule your first class online! 

Tags: Barbara Wenger, des moines, urbandale, lesson, piano, gallery
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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70th Birthday Surprise for Mom
By West Music Company
5/3/2017 4:25:00 PM  

Customer Becky Steenhoek shares his story of planning the perfect surprise birthday gift for his mother, a life-long piano player. Dennis and his family lead his mom on a scavenger hunt that ended at her very own grand piano at West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery. 

birthday grand pianoBy: Becky Steenhoek

For our mother's 70th birthday celebration, the planning started months in advance, as we knew we wanted to do something extra special to celebrate her big day. Our mother has always been the one to go above and beyond to do things for others, so for once, we wanted to surprise her and make her feel special.
Music has always been her passion. Playing the piano and organ, singing, directing church choirs, composing music and creating beautiful Easter and Christmas cantatas, music has been a huge part of her life, and something that continues to bring her great joy. But the one thing she had always (secretly) wanted was her very own grand piano, which became the inspiration for her 70th birthday surprise.

birthday grand piano
Dad spent 6 months planning for Mom’s big day. After doing some research on his own, Dad revealed to us kids that he wanted to get Mom a grand piano for her birthday. Over the next five months, Dad enlisted the help of Store Manager Jeff Musel at West Music, who not only taught Dad a lot about pianos, but also was an integral part in helping us create a magical day for Mom. While Dad talked pianos with Jeff, my brother (Brian), sisters (Julie and Amy), and I (Becky) plotted and planned the surprise.

After coordinating airfare and travel plans for siblings who lived out of state, we created a birthday scavenger hunt that began in our hometown of Pella, and ended in Urbandale at West Music, where Mom would be welcomed by Jeff and a showroom filled with grand pianos. At each "stop" during the scavenger hunt, she was greeted by one of us and given a clue to her next destination, all of which had some sort of "grand piano" related innuendo. Throughout the day, the scavenger hunt led Mom to the Marriott Hotel on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines to the Dueling Piano Bar in West Des Moines, to the White House Black Market store at Jordan Creek Mall, and of course to the final destination, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery, where there were seven grand pianos with balloons tied to each of them, one of which our mom would get to pick out and bring home.

Needless to say, the entire weekend was full of fun and surprises, and it's something our family will never forget. It was a very special day, and a big part of that is because of the people at West Music, who were so helpful and accommodating throughout the entire process. From Jeff decorating the pianos with balloons to Tanner playing "Happy Birthday" when our mom walked through the door, they really were the cherry on top of a perfect day. Thank you Jeff, Tanner and West Music for being a part of making a dream come true for our mom. I only wish you could see the way she smiles every time she sits down to play at her very own Yamaha Grand piano!

Thank you Becky for letting us be part of this incredible day! Follow us on Facebook for more stories and suppries like these: facebook.com/westmusic

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Categories: Pianos, Digital Pianos & Keyboards, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines April 2017 Musician of the Month: Kimball Mendenhall
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Kimball Mendenhall has been a piano student of Dr. Asia Grant for 6 months. He is a 2nd grader in the Waukee Community School District. Kimball loves using his hands to make music and learn new pieces. He is smart, fast, and loves to play sports. Kimball’s favorite sports are soccer, basketball, and football.

Kimball participates in Boy Scouts, as well as playing soccer and basketball. Dr. Grant believes Kimball deserves recognition because “Kimball is very hard working, responsible, always comes to lessons prepared, is a fast learner, and he loves music.”

Congratulations, Kimball!

Tags: des moines, urbandale, piano gallery, lesson, Asia Grant
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Piano Types for The Home
By West Music Company
4/6/2017 1:34:00 PM  

Whether you are starting to think about taking piano lessons, have been playing for a few years, or are an expert pianist, having the proper piano that suits your needs is vital. With all of the options that are available, it can be challenging to find the right instrument for your level and your budget. Let us help guide you in finding a piano that fits your needs.

Vertical Pianos

vertical piano

A very common type of piano for the home or studio is the vertical piano. They are called vertical pianos, because of their vertical strings, and are particularly known for their height, which ranges from three to five feet. Due to their cost effectiveness and space efficiency (they typically are no wider than 5’), verticals are a popular choice for homes, churches, schools and music studios.

Common Types of Vertical Pianos Are:

  • Spinet – 36” to 40” in height
  • Console – 40” to 43” in height
  • Studio – 44” to 48” in height
  • Upright – 45” and above

The larger piano, the larger soundboard, and it’s the soundboard that create tone quality. Therefore, Console and Studio pianos are the most common types of pianos found in homes. They are extremely durable so they can be a good choice around children.

Rarely manufactured today,  upright pianos are the tallest of the vertical pianos, with a typical height ranging from four to five feet tall. This piano was very popular at the turn of the century and is what you usually see in older homes and long lineages of families.


Grand Pianos

grand piano

Horizontal pianos also referred to as grand pianos. They got their name because of their large size and the fact that their strings are placed horizontally. Grand pianos range in size from four feet long all the way up to nine feet long and produce a very fine tone. Many professional pianists or performers enjoy them for their responsive key action and their spectacular sound.

There Are Six Kinds of Grand Pianos:

  • Petite Grand – under 5’ in length
  • Baby Grand – 5’ to 5’5” in length
  • Medium Grand – 5’ 6” to 5’ 9” in length
  • Parlor / Living Grand – 5’ 10” to 6’ 9” in length
  • Semi-Concert / Ballroom Grand – 6’ 10” to 7’ 10” in length
  • Concert Grand - 8’ 11” and longer

If you are looking for a grand piano for your home, a popular choice is the baby grand. These pianos have amazing sound quality, are extremely aesthetically pleasing, and don't take up a ton of space. Some baby grands are meticulously hand-crafted and can take up to 12 months to produce. They are also affordable but still have the rich sound you want from a grand piano.


Digital Pianos


A compact and cost-efficient type of piano is the digital piano. Digital pianos have only been around for the past 30 years or so, but they have come a long way from when they were first introduced. Today, they have excellent sound and can even have gravity-based, spring-free action to feel like a grand piano.

Digital pianos are very versatile and can be a good choice for beginners or professionals. They cost less, weigh less, and do not have to be tuned. They also can be plugged into headphones, which can be very convenient in small houses or apartments.


Contact West Music Piano Division

Whether you are just starting to learn how to play the piano, or have been performing for years, having the correct type of piano that fits your needs can make all the difference in playing. Choosing the right piano is a complex and important decision that should not be rushed.

Feel free to stop by your local West Music store to test out your options personally. We offer a wide variety of pianos - vertical, grand, digital, and even used models - and have knowledgeable and helpful piano associates to assist you. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to see all our different available models, please call West Music at 800-373-2000 or head to our piano website at pianos.westmusic.com.


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Categories: West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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Des Moines March 2017 Musician of the Month: Lucas Clark
By West Music Company
3/29/2017 1:17:00 PM  

Lucas ClarkLucas Clark is in the 3rd grade in West Des Moines. He has studied guitar with Mark Willie for six months. Mark Willie believes Lucas deserves recognition because “Lucas has consistently shown hard work and dedication since day one. He always comes into lessons prepared and can demonstrate his knowledge of the material. His talent and ambition combined leave no doubt that he has great potential to go far in music.” Lucas’ main musical goal is to master his instrument. His advice to other musicians: “Always try your hardest and never give up. Be prepared. Practice and listen!”

Lucas loves learning new songs and new chords. He enjoys performing songs for people and loves playing with his family. His dad plays multiple instruments and his sister sings and is a great jazz drummer. Sometimes Lucas performs songs for his class. Last year he played The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” for a crowd at a ski resort. One of Lucas’ favorite music genres to play is surf rock, but he’s a fan of different types of music including: The Strokes, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures.

Lucas’ other interests include playing lots of sports. He loves soccer, tennis, and golf. He enjoys snowboarding while in the mountains, and at home he loves playing with his dogs and being outside.

One surprising fact is that Lucas’ great-grandfather was best friends with Lawrence Welk, and played with him before he became famous. Lawrence even asked his great-grandfather to go on the road with him, but had to turn him down. That’s awesome! 

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Categories: Conservatory, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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